On the first day of Rosh Hashanna 5765, I heard a wonderful
brief remark on the subject of Tashlikh. Tashlikh
is the Jewish tradition of gathering at a body of flowing water
and turning one's pockets inside out, symbolically "casting
off" our sins. This event takes place on the first day of Rosh
Hashanna, (unless it is a Shabbat), and has often, in
the popular Jewish culture devolved into a family as well as a communal
gathering at which the children, and adults toss crumbs of bread
into the water. The children enjoy watching the fish eat the bread
and the adults read the appropriate Talmudic passage as prayer.
The Rabbi mentioned that Tashlikh would be directly after
the afternoon service and reminded/taught the congregation that
despite the common perception, the purpose of Tashlikh was
not to feed the fish. The Rabbi mentioned that it
was expressly prohibited to "feed strange animals" on
either Shabbat or any other Holy Day. He then defined "strange
animals" as animals that are not your pets and are not dependant
on you for all of their food.
I watched the United States President, George W, Bush address the
United States General Assembly this morning. I thought it was a
very good speech about democracy and the overthrow of despotism
despite the possibility of that causing "regional instability."
That is I thought so until the President reached into his pocket
and tossed a crumb of bread to the mostly non-responsive audience.
Immediately I thought of Tashlikh. The President was standing
there and feeding these "strange animals."
The problem with this was that the "crumb" he tossed
was the security, and even the existence of the State of Israel.
The President spoke in magnificent terms about freedom and democracy.
The President spoke of dedication and follow-through. The President
spoke of the defeat of terrorists, while not clearly stating that
these terrorists are Islamist Moslem Terrorists. He boldly stated
that the American people (as represented by his administration for
the time being), would no longer tolerate despotic regimes in the
"greater middle east," an area defined in the speech as
ranging from Afghanistan to the Sudan, (at least). He called for
democratization and civil liberties throughout that region and the
world. And then - he dropped the bomb. He said that Israel would
have to pay for it all. He demanded that Israel "freeze settlement
activity" without specifying where he considered Jews could
live. He again called for a Palestinian State for the fictitious
The President of the United States, at the opening of the United
Nations General Assembly Session, a civil Rosh Hashanna for
the body, fed the "strange fishes" and we were the "bread-crumbs."
Someone should have told him that he wasn't allowed to do that.
© 2004 Rabbi Haim Cassorla
To contact Rabbi Haim Cassorla, please send emails to: Rabbi